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That low-ego Steeler coach

Even in as high-powered a business as professional football, it is possible to be low key and still build a fine organization, establish a rapport with players, and win the big games a majority of the time.

The model for this part executive, part head coach could easily be Chuck Noll , whose Pittsburgh Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl in six years last Sunday , 31-19, against the courageous but outclassed Los Angeles Rams.

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Noll, if you can get him alone when he doesn't have a lot of things on his mind, can be a good interview. But in mass-media press conferences (one of the banes of Super Bowl week), you are not going to get much more than yes- and-no answers, plus the standard number of cliches.

The results of his labors, rather than headlines, are what seem to please Noll. The thrill for Chuck has always been the chase. His ego has been on a diet longer than Jackie Gleason's waistline.

Noll gets his satisfaction out of the vast areas of preparation and teaching that are part of his job, and with the semipersonal relationships he enjoys with most of his players.

Although winning to him is obviously important, it is not (as Vince Lombardi was often quoted as saying) the only thing. There is a special balance to his life.Noll's temperament, even after a loss, would never permit him to kick out a panel in his office door on his way home.

"If you structure your life on winning every time, then you are in for a lot of frustration," Chuck told reporters. "Right away you discover there aren't enough Saturdays or Sundays during the season to satisfy the need. I mean you can really make yourself miserable.

"But for me the satisfaction has always come in the total preparation," he continued. "It's the achieving that makes this business worthwhile, not the achievement itself. I also think it's a mistake ever to make a job decision based only on money considerations."

Now let me explain that the above quotations did not come in the sequence they have been reported. Instead, they were the result of taking what the writer believed were the best of Noll's statements during Super Bowl week and putting them all together.

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When Owner Art Rooney chose Chuck as Pittsburgh's head coach, back in 1969, the Steelers weren't merely coming off a year in which they had won 2, lost 11, and tied 1. The situation was worse than that -- worse because their organization had crashed to the point where it was also getting beaten in trades and at the draft table.

"What turned Pittsburgh's situation," somebody once said, "wasn't signing Noll but staying with him when his first Steeler team went 1-13. In fact, Chuck's teams had been losing for three years before beginning the minidynasty that has put Pittsburgh into the playoffs the last eight years.

Like all successful National Football League head coaches, Noll is committed to defense and team balance first. This isn't to say that he ignores his offense, only that his priorities begin with stopping the opposition. His special teams (meaning the ones that handle kickoffs and punts) are also given a lot of attention.

Basically, Pittsburgh doesn't have a fancy offense. The Steeler's running plays work because they have an offensive line capable of moving people. Their passing game is just as successful, because quarterback Terry Bradshaw nearly always gets the time he needs to find his receivers.

Although there are no doors in Noll's head, at least this much is known about his private life:

It takes a lot to upset him.

He flies his own airplane.

Although he likes L. C. Greenwood and Lynn Swann on the field, he prefers Beethoven and Tchaikovsky on the stereo.

He does not need a map in the kitchen, and among his specialties are bouillabaisse and Coquille St. Jacques.

He has his own greenhouse and grows both flowers and vegetables.

The way he likes reporters to treat him -- is with neglect!


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